Jay Ambrose: The World War II study group

It was a couple of months after D-Day, the results of the European land war were awful — 2,500 casualties aday for allied forces — and Americans were getting jittery. We need to get out of this awful mess, they obviously felt, and the politicians saluted their wishes through the naming of a commission.

This was not just any commission, but a bipartisan one — composed of well-regarded political has-beens of both parties — who came to a self-congratulatory consensus despite some intense disagreements. They presented the U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, with an exit strategy.

First off, the commissioners said in proud unison, we need to have the French rise up and take back their own country. If they can’t do that, we scat, and take the British with us. We let the Germans have Western Europe, while the Russians keep fighting in the east.

Holocaust? So what? Virtual European enslavement as far as the eye can see? Well, it’s not our fault. A powerful German threat to the United States for maybe a century to come, or else a Soviet Union twice as powerful as it would otherwise be? Perhaps, but we’ve encountered tough going in this second of two world wars, so let’s skedaddle from Europe and focus on Japan, which started all of this at Pearl Harbor, anyway. There’s the real enemy.

There was more. The commissioners thought the way to get to a resolution of the difficulties was to depend on help from the Fascists in Italy and the Nazi’s puppet government in France. Benito Mussolini lending a hand? Yes, that was the ticket, and the traitorous Vichy characters would assist in all sorts of ways, don’t you know? Brilliant, said many in an eager press, accompanied by leftists, appeasers and pacifists.

At first, FDR said nothing doing, but then noticed that Americans were deserting him and finally agreed to abandon the effort and call it an honorable withdrawal.

Ah, bliss. But there was no bliss, because the Germans killed still more Jews, more Poles and others, and Europe became a dreadful, ugly place where the vilest kinds of dictators ruled. Kiss up to us, abandon your firmest principles, and we will make it easier on you, our enemies said. We listened to a commission, and we gave in and we paid a price.

But wait a second — all this is wholly imagined, you say. True, but is it so far-fetched a hypothetical analogy from what is actually happening in the present day? The report of the Study Commission on Iraq is a declaration of retreat and a yelp of fright, not a plan for victory.

Suppose, if you want, that deserting our Iraqi allies to cruel death — we’ve done it before — is the way of sophisticated realism, but contemplate, too, how the retreat could lead to the loss of anyone’s faith that America ever means what it says. Europe may like us more, but will not suddenly become tough on our behalf, or even on its own behalf, for that matter. Counting on Iran and Syria to help out is nothing short of laughable.

The occupation in Iraq is awful; we do need to end the violence — but how about adopting some lessons from World War II? As the scholar-columnist Victor Davis Hanson has written, we did not dwell on major mistakes — and we made them —but adapted military tactics to the situation at hand. The commission’s alternative of scurrying homeward could well mean long-term terrorism on our shores; it is unlikely to save anywhere near as many lives as it could cost.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com

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